Saturday, 25 June 2011

Sussex Border Path Section 2 Emsworth and Stansted Park

Racton Monument
As is usual with summer months, I seem to have a lot of difficulty finding enough time to take a whole day to go walking and so this year I have decided to try and help myself by undertaking the Sussex Border Path in stages but by circular walks rather than the usual point to point walks that I normally do. I though this would be the best way of tackling the path since many of the suggested staging points do not have public transport links to each other, which would mean some very lengthy and convoluted trips.
Early Morning at Emsworth
The Sussex Border Path is highly unusual in that it follows the rather man-made county boundary of this historic kingdom (Sussex is a shortened name for Kingdom of the South Saxons). Since I have already completed the coastal walk it seems natural for me to complete my circumnavigation of my home county in order to get to know it better. I am particularly intrigued about the northern boundary since this is a part of the County that I do not know very well.
Tunnel Under the A27
The first part of the Sussex Border Path is a circumnavigation of Thorney Island and having completed this as part of my coast walk I wasn’t especially keen to do this section again, especially as I didn’t really want to walk through the military base again. Instead I decided to move onto the next section to the north of Emsworth. I identified a circuit that would include the Sussex Border Path as far as Stansted Park, returning via through the estate and past the big house, passing Racton Monument before returning to Emsworth through Westbourne village.
Westbourne Church Peeping
It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I had managed to rouse myself out of bed super early, so that I was ready to start walking at around 7.30am. I parked to the north of the town centre in Emsworth and wandered through Brook Meadow nature reserve before getting on to the official path. This wetland area was full of pungent smelling cow parsley, butterflies and dragonflies all out in force. The stream running through is apparently a favourite haunt of local water voles although to be fair I didn’t actually spot any this time.
Old Defences
At the far end of the nature reserve I crossed under the main Coastway railway line through a rather cavernous and dark tunnel like bridge. At the other side I passed by a field and then under the A27 by-pass, which couldn’t be more different from the railway crossing. This was incredibly brightly lit, preposterously so really! Once past the A27 I entered a field full of cows and buttercups and headed towards the pointy spire of Westbourne Church. Halfway across the field, almost buried in the undergrowth was a very strange looking pillbox, the likes of which I had not seen before. It was quite a large one with extra rifle holes and a second protecting wall on the outside. I had a good look round before moving on.
Emsworth Common
At the main road at the end of the field I was slightly disappointed to be turning left and not walking past the church that I had been heading for. What followed was a bit of road walking to position myself a bit for Emsworth Common some distance ahead. When I eventually turned off the road, I spotted a fox in the field adjacent to me. We had an encounter that seemed to last forever as the two of us sussed each other out across the fence. I knew that I would have to be extra specially careful to get my camera out without freaking the poor chap out. No matter how gentle I was I failed dismally as he turned and fled at the first hint of me doing something out of the ordinary.
Dog Rose
After wandering alongside some more suburban looking houses I eventually left the built up part of Emsworth far behind and entered…wood. As it was still pretty early in the morning the woods were alive with the sound of birdsong, a sound that always gladdens my heart! The first part of the woodland was quite short and I soon came across the busy Emsworth Common Road. The official path continues along this road eastwards for awhile but I decided to cross and use a couple of unofficial looking paths so that I could avoid the otherwise necessary road walking.It did the job perfectly, but I had to keep my wits about me to ensure that I didn’t get horribly lost in the woods. The worst part about my route was that I suddenly felt quite wet and realised that I had been slimed by cuckoo spit, which was everywhere around me and difficult to avoid!
Stansted Park
The onward path across the forest when I had regained the official route was delightful. Underfoot was a very well surfaced path and clearly defined, while the trees above me got taller and taller as I proceeded northwards. Eventually I left the woods to find myself walking between large fields of pretty mature looking crops. It was surprising how much these had come on in the three weeks since my last outing on the Isle of Wight.
Stansted Gatehouse
I passed through a couple of farms that were a bit heavy on the disused equipment and abandoned vehicles. In fact I am surprised that with the price of scrap metal these days that the farm owners had made seemingly no attempt to sell off this stuff. In the garden was a large tepee which was being offered as a place to stay. All rather interesting! The path worked its way around a couple of very large fields and woodland edges before pitching up at The Avenue, a lengthy avenue of trees that formed a memorable walk to Stansted House.
Stansted House

By now the sun was getting pretty hot and the cloud was beginning to bubble up a little after what had been a very promising start to the day. Every so often the sun would go behind a cloud and create a little shade, which was very welcome as I walked along a decidedly hot stretch of path down The Avenue. As I approached the house the path took a circular route around at a safe distance, which allowed me to get a good look at the old place. The house is not the original as this burned to the ground back in 1900, but is an Edwardian house built on the exact footprint of the original. Since 1983 it has been owned by a charitable trust and is open to the public during the summer season.
Fresh Crops
I headed off further east to a country road where I eventually looped around to another rather more surprising place – Racton Monument. This rather spooky looking tower partially hidden in the trees is an enigmatic place. It was built in 1772 although no-one is quite sure of what it was built for and its future is decidedly shaky too. It has been subject to various plans to turn it into a dwelling, which is what the present owner would like to do with it.Sadly though it is being left to decay and is covered in graffiti while the owner tries to get planning permission and finances together to sort it out once and for all. Standing at the foot of it, I couldn’t help but think that nature might get there first! It is undoubtedly one of the strangest places I have ever seen.
Racton Monument
Having had a good poke around Racton Monument I started to head back towards Stansted House along a tree line path with views out towards the Solent and Langstone Harbour to the south. It was a very pleasant walk and by now there were plenty of people about as it was heading in towards late morning. I threaded my way through the countryside, past the Brickkiln Ponds (I wonder how they got their names?) and down towards Westbourne Village once again. The last stretch of path was rather unpleasant as I had to cross a deeply pitted field, created by horses hooves in the clay that had now dried out following the dry weather we have been having.
Westbourne Pond
Westbourne Village is a delightful place, with a plethora of old style buildings from all sorts of eras alongside each other. It was also very well off for public houses, explaining why perhaps The Good Intent had recently fallen by the wayside. Another, The George and Dragon was now a doctor’s surgery of all things! I smiled at the irony. I made my way down towards the church where I left the road behind once more, following instead a canal leat that once serviced a local mill. It was a delightful walk, although the original purpose of the leat was now impossible due to the vegetation that had grown up all along its length. I passed a field of alpacas that looked very out of place in such pastoral surroundings but which seemed to arouse a good deal of interest among the growing numbers of Sunday strollers I was no encountering.
Westbourne Church
Further on I crossed the busy A27, this time over rather than under. The other side of the road provided quite a surprise after the roar of the traffic died down a little. The path took me through the grounds of Lumley Mill, a fabulous old building, lovingly restored and converted into living quarters. Yet there was no mistaking its origins as a watermill. It was a fine sight to end the day’s walking for a little further on I reunited with the path that I had taken earlier in the morning to make my way back to the car.
Lumley Mill
For me this was a fascinating ramble through a corner of Sussex that is completely new to me. Challenging the walk wasn’t but with such interesting history almost everywhere you turn, it didn’t seem to be important how challenging the walk was! This took me a little over three hours to complete and I was home by lunchtime!


  1. lovely place.. i really loved the post..
    pnr status

  2. Hi Worthing wanderer!
    I'm a member of the Worcester Walkers and interested in walking and writing about places in Sussex that have a connection with my ancestors, who for many generations lived in West Sussex around Brighton, Bolney, Shermanbury, Steyning, Rottingdean and Worthing. I'm wondering if you might be able to advise me with some of my walks - I'm not necessarily looking for scenic routes, so much as interesting ones... I wonder if you might be able to help? I'm also looking to find good bunkhouses/YHAs on the route.
    Thanks in advance!

  3. Hello Anna,
    I'd be delighted to help out! I'll e mail you separately.